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Quality of Life

New report shows 'real cost' of living in San Diego, Imperial counties

When you think about the high cost of living here, the cost of housing is the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of us. But a new report from the United Way of California said measuring housing costs alone means a lot of other expenses are missed.

The headline of the report is that a family of four in San Diego County would need to bring in upwards of $110,000 a year to live here without struggling. That's opposed to federal poverty guidelines that say families bringing in $30,000 or less are struggling.

The report finds that in this county, 36% of households fall short of the $110,000 mark.


It’s even worse in Imperial County, where 44% of households aren’t making enough to live decently.

“It’s clear that the federal poverty guidelines that are used nationwide really don’t take into account what it really costs to live in California," said Nancy Sasaki, president and CEO of United Way of San Diego County.

Sasaki said the real cost report measures a wide range of costs to come to a much more realistic number, including "things like housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and some of these basic needs."

But housing costs are still a big factor, with rent the focus of a television commercial that recently ran on cable TV systems throughout the state. It features a number of different people looking straight into the camera and stating, "the rent is too damn high."

It ends with one of them saying, "Gov. Newsom, what are you doing to lower my rent?"

A 3 bedroom house with a 'for rent' sign out front is shown in this undated photo.
KPBS staff
A three bedroom house with a "for rent" sign out front is shown in this undated photo.

The ad, from a group called Justice For Renters, is seeking the governor’s support for a measure on next November’s ballot that would allow municipalities throughout the state more power to enact rent control. At the least, the group wants him not to oppose the measure.

The Southern California Rental Housing Association does oppose the measure.

“It really does in many ways come down to supply and demand," said Molly Kirkland, the group's director of public affairs. "We really just have to work to make sure that we’re not encouraging policies that increase rents, that increase housing costs, and make sure that we keep adding the housing that we need."

There is a bit of good news locally. The latest figures from Apartment List show San Diego rents are actually down just over 4% from their summer peak. But Sasaki said what's really needed is changes in policy to make an impact.

“How can we help single mothers who are a part of those disproportionately affected groups, households of color, households with young children and seniors?” she said.

More details can be found in the report online. There you'll find the finer points of why it costs so much to live in this beautiful corner of the world.